It is with gratitude to God and appreciation to “Ndi Imo, Ndi oma,” that I bring you greetings on the occasion of the 59th Independence anniversary celebration of our great country, Nigeria.
This event, indeed, affords us a great opportunity to pay glowing tributes to our founding fathers: the late Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Here, in the South East region, we must recall with deep respect our immediate post-Independence leaders like Sir Akanu Ibiam, the first governor of the Eastern Region, Dr. Michael Okpara, the regional Premier, as well as such other great leaders as Sir Mbonu Ojike, Chief A.C. Nwapa, and Dr. K.O. Mbadiwe, among others.
For these pioneer leaders and other nationalists across Nigeria, there was no sacrifice too much nor any price too dear to pay in the efforts to achieve a self-governing and a sovereign motherland. Today, we are beneficiaries of this great legacy of freedom – the tree of liberty planted and nurtured with the sweat and, in some circumstances, the blood of courageous men and women who resisted colonialism has continued to grow.
However, like every other great nation, Nigeria has bravely endured the pangs of birth of an emergent nation. Indeed, at every point, our resolve to live together as one strong and united nation has been evident in our courage to confront the odds, and resilience to pull back from the precipice. We rose up to the demands of liberation struggle, bounced back from a civil war, and have kept faith with the task of nation-building. Together, we have overcome, and shall yet be victorious.
As we take stock today, we have cause to thank God for the great progress we have made in nation-building and the abundant human and natural resources that we have been endowed with. Nigeria boasts of a very energetic people, dynamic culture, beautiful landscape, bountiful natural resources and a huge swath of rich agricultural fields, among several other endowments.
There is, indeed, no state where these blessings have been more evident than Imo State. I am proud to serve a state blessed with a very dynamic, youthful, educated, hardworking and peaceful people. We are a people with great potential, yearning to be harnessed. Our mission as a government, therefore, is to make our state the beacon of hope for the country and, indeed, for the continent.
To this end, as we celebrate 59 years of liberation from the clutches of colonialism, I enjoin the collective support and sacrifice of our citizens. We are too noble a people to limit ourselves to small aspirations. For this reason, we are engaging all Imolites to map out strategies to harness our huge human and economic resources.
We will base our growth direction on a development agenda currently being put together, known as Imo Growth and Strategic Development Plan. This involves a five-year economic blueprint for our rebuilding process and for restoring Imo to its former glory. Accordingly, we have taken the first sure steps by building a strong institutional framework for good governance. We have adopted the ideals of due process in all government transactions, in keeping with national and global standards.
Imo State now operates the Treasury Single Account (TSA) system, which is today boosting our internally generated revenues (IGR).
The civil service has taken its pride of place as the engine room for the delivery of government services. Reforms are ongoing to improve service delivery across board, motivate the workforce and right the wrongs inflicted on the psyche of the personnel by eight years of misgovernance.
We have embarked on a comprehensive plan of overhauling our infrastructure, which was ruined by shoddy contract awards, quackery and entrenched policy of graft. Works are commencing shortly for the reconstruction of 14 critical roads, both within the Owerri Township and across the state.
It is important to state that we are reviewing our security architecture with a view to ensuring security of lives and properties and restoration of confidence in government.
We take note that we are a state blessed with a huge population of young people with great thirst for knowledge. The least any responsible government can do is to evolve strategies to satisfy this passion. We are, therefore, working to restore education to its place of priority as the biggest industry in Imo State.
Information and communication technology, we are aware, is a major driver of change and a bridge to the future. As a result, we have reached out to some global IT firms to design and implement programmes to inculcate IT competency and globally competitive skills in our youths and to make Imo State the technology hub of Nigeria.
In another breath, there is no greater test of development than a people’s ability to feed themselves. To this end, the government has put all machinery in motion to harness our agricultural potential. Notably, Adapalm, Avutu Poultry Farm and similar establishments, which hitherto were abandoned to rot away, are being revived for optimum production.
In an effort to expand the funding and donor possibilities in rebuilding the state, we, as a policy, have been engaging international bilateral and multilateral partners as well as donor agencies. I am glad to say today that these engagements are looking very positive as they not only now see Imo as one to do business with but, in fact, one to support and assist. From the World Bank to the Department of International Finance and Development, to the USAID, the French Development Agency, AFD, the Commonwealth Enterprise Group and, most recently, the UNDP, all have extended a hand in partnership to Imo State.
As far as luring the private sector to see Imo State as not only a destination of choice but an investor’s haven, we have put a lot of measures in place. We have revamped the moribund Imo State Investment Promotion Agency and set up a dedicated Ease of Doing Business desk, among measures to establish the fact that Imo is open for business.
As you are aware, one of the foundations of democracy is the participation of the people, at every tier of governance, in the choice of who governs them. We are, therefore, giving expression to independence by ensuring the devolution of power to the local governments. Consequently, in no distant time, our people would go to the polls, after a long while, for a free, fair and credible election at the local governments.
My good people of Imo State, I must thank you once again for your resolve to change the narrative of poor governance that became the trademark of Imo State in the immediate past. The task before us is, therefore, challenging, given the pillage experienced in the locust years and damage done to our state institutions. However, things are getting better. Thanks to the crop of patriotic and selfless Imo sons and daughters in my team, the partnership of a very vibrant state legislature and an independent judiciary. Ours is a collective governance, with no organ of government nor segment of the population left behind.
I appeal to us all to pray for the peace and progress of our state in particular and our nation in general. Let us also remember Mr. President and our leaders in our prayers. It is for this reason that, just two days ago, we committed the nation and the state to prayers at a state church service at the Assumpta Cathedral, Owerri.
It is also helpful that we pay our taxes, as and when due and to ensure law and order without which no progress is possible. I appeal to you all to always come together in your communities to keep our environment healthy and to make Imo clean and green again.
We have put our hands together on the plough of restoration. We cannot look back. We can see the silver lining behind the dark clouds and, with God on our side, we are building a great state and, indeed, a nation dedicated to the ideals of unity and faith, peace and progress.
•Ihedioha is Governor of Imo State, being excerpts of address to Imo people on Nigeria’s 59th Independence anniversary